Research into early childhood development has uncovered the fact that sensory play is important and beneficial for babies, toddlers and children. It helps them build an understanding of the world around them, gain confidence and learn about their body’s abilities. This knowledge has led to many parents actively seeking sensory toys, and as such, there’s many to choose from. If you’re wondering what to pick, we’ve taken a closer look at 13 favorites to let you compare them side by side.

Our Top Picks

How to Pick the Best "Sensory Toy"

1. Recommended Age

There are sensory toys for everyone from babies to adults, but smaller kids can’t safely use or benefit from toys designed for older kids or grown ups. Knowing that you’re choosing a toy for the correct age range will ensure that your purchase achieves its intended result.

2. Safety Hazards

Whenever you’re dealing with clothes, gear or toys for kids, it’s important to know if there are any safety hazards and what they are. This ensures that your child will be kept free from harm and that you will be aware if supervision is required.

3. Sensory Focus

Sensory toys are intended to stimulate and engage the senses in an educational way. Some have a fairly broad focus, while others focus more specifically on one sense, such as touch or hearing. If you’re looking to help your child develop one sense in particular, you may want to choose a toy tailored to their needs.

4. What’s Included

Some sensory toys come with a lot of pieces, bells and whistles while others are singular compact units. If you don’t want something with a lot of pieces, you’ll want to make sure there’s not tons of extra stuff included. Likewise, if you’re trying to avoid something too simple to be stimulating for an older child, this is also an important feature to note.

5. Required for Operation

While most of the toys on our list are operational right out of the box, some aren’t. It’s important to know if a toy requires something like batteries or water to operate, especially if you’re not looking for a water toy or if batteries aren’t included. Knowing what’s required will help you understand how the toy works and what to have on hand, if anything.

6. Size

The toys on our list range from small handhelds to, in one case, a standing table. You’ll want to make sure to check out the size of the products you’re investigating to ensure they’re the right size to be comfortable for both your child and your home.

The Winners

#1

Product Nice Name

Award Name or delete

A cool, easy to use first cruiser, the PlaSmart PlasmaCar is a no-pedals vehicle is operated when a user puts both feet on the foot rests and turns the wheel to go. It helps riders to develop balance, motor skills and confidence, and adults can ride too – it accommodated riders up to 220 lbs. It travels at up to an impressive 6 MPH with no batteries or charging.

Recommended Age: 3+
Safety Hazards: Choking hazard
Sensory Focus: Sight, proprioception
Includes: Plasma car
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 31 x 11.8 x 11 inches

#2

Gonge Riverstones

Upgrade Choice

This coordination building tool is used to mimic the act of stepping carefully from stone to stone in a stream, which improves balance. The Gonge Riverstones can be arranged in any path of your choosing, from a simple one that most children could complete to something more challenging to your child’s skill level. The stones have a non-slip rubber bottom, so they’re safe for play.

Recommended Age: 3 – 7 years
Safety Hazards: None
Sensory Focus: Proprioception
Includes: 3 large and 3 small stones
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 14 x 14 x 3.4 inches

#3

Tuddler Educational Drawstring

Best Budget Buy

This fun peg board, Tuddler Educational Drawstring is an ideal tool for early color sorting and development of manual dexterity. It’s great for teaching pattern identification, learning coordination, playing games and engaging in creative cooperative play. It also a great tool for teaching counting, and there are no sharp edges so it’s comfortable for little hands.

Recommended Age: 3+
Safety Hazards: None
Sensory Focus: Touch, sight
Includes: Board, 30 pegs, storage baf, pattern card, ebook
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 14 x 10 x 2 inches

#4

Product Nice Name

Best sensory musical toy

The Hape Raindrops Rainmaker Toddler is perfect for little music lovers. This rainmaker features a clear cylinder with blue and green beads which trickle down through a spiral and create calming rain sounds. Toddlers can improve motor skills with this toy, which delights multiple senses. It’s small and portable, making it a great first sensory toy for toddlers that can be stashed for on the go.

Recommended Age: 2 – 5 years
Safety Hazards: None
Sensory Focus: Touch, hearing, sight
Includes: Toy
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 2.2 x 2.2 x 8 inches

#5

KeNeer Stretchy String Fidget Sensory

Best sensory fidget toy

This multi-pack of bright fidget toys are great for stress and anxiety relief for both kids and adults. Kids can pull, squeeze, pinch and manipulate the flexible toy to aid focus and relieve tension. The KeNeer Stretchy String Fidget Sensory is great for a multiple kid household – it’s also awesome for stashing one in the car, one in the living room, bedroom… you see where we’re going with this.

Recommended Age: 7+
Safety Hazards: Do not wear as jewelry
Sensory Focus: Touch
Includes: 7 fidget toys
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 11 x 0.5 x 0.5 inches

#6

Step2 Spill Splash Seaway Water

Best Sensory Water Table Toy for Toddlers

Providing hours of outdoor fun, this table, Step2 Spill Splash Seaway water is ideal for a hot Summer day. The convenient shade umbrella will keep your little one protected from the sun while the varying height basins are great for offering outdoor water fun as they grow or for sharing as a cooperative play toy. The cute fish and other figurines add an extra layer of fun, and the flipper, shovel and other tools encourage development of manual dexterity.

Recommended Age: 18 months – 8 years
Safety Hazards: Water toy, supervise
Sensory Focus: Touch, sight
Includes: Play table with two basins, umbrella, pole, play accessories and figurines
Required for Operation: Water
Size: 25 x 43.2 x 22.5

#7

Wonderworld Rainbow Sound Blocks

The compact, sensory packed block stack features bright colors that engage little eyes with blocks that are an ideal size for small hands. The colorful Wonderworld Rainbow Sound Blocks are hollow and filled with beads that produce different tones, and the blocks themselves come in varying shapes and colors. It’s a great toy for color and shape identification, dexterity and musical play.

Recommended Age: 3+
Safety Hazards: Choking hazard
Sensory Focus: Touch, hearing, sight
Includes: Toy with six sensory shape blocks
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 9 x 5 x 2.7 inches

#8

ALEX Toys Rub a Dub Water Flutes

Your kids will have tons of musical bath time fun with ALEX Toys Rub a Dub Water Flutes. They’re perfect for cooperative play or outdoor play and a great addition to a pool, beach or camping trip. The waterproof song sheets teach children familiar songs they know and will delight in playing, making playtime a positive and educational sensory experience.

Recommended Age: 36 months – 7 years
Safety Hazards: Water toy, supervise
Sensory Focus: Touch, hearing
Includes: 5 flutes, flute holder, waterproof song sheet
Required for Operation: Water
Size: 7.5 x 12.2 x 3 in holder

#9

Tangle Therapy Mind Wellness tOY

This focus and relaxation tool, Tangle Therapy Mind Wellness Toy is great for anxious and agitated kids or those who have trouble listening. The satisfying textured rubber exterior covers a hard plastic flexible interior which can be twisted and bent into fun shapes, allowing focus and calm. It’s also FDA approved for finger muscle strengthening, so it’s good for their hands AND yours.

Recommended Age: 5+
Safety Hazards: Choking hazard
Sensory Focus: Touch
Includes: Toy
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 6.5 x 1.9 x 1.4 inches

#10

VTech Discover Activity Cube

Highly interactive and lots of fun, the VTech Discover Activity Cube is ideal for early sensory development. There’s lots to see and do here, with 75+ melodies, sounds and phrases as well as 7 different activities which introduce colors, numbers and animals to tots. The cube provides opportunities for your child to refine motor control and language skills and gives an excellent early boost to sensory development.

Recommended Age: 9 months – 3 years
Safety Hazards: None
Sensory Focus: Sight, touch, hearing
Includes: Toy
Required for Operation: 2 AA batteries, not included
Size: 8.7 x 9.2 x 9.7

#11

NatGeo Ultimate Dinosaur Play

Amateur paleontologists will love the National Geographic Ultimate Dinosaur Play fun research set, featuring a real dinosaur poop fossil that’s sure to amuse and delight. The kinetic sand never dries out or gets gross, so this kit has lasting power. The dino toys and mold keep the toy engaging after the initial excitement of the fossil, and it’s fun for both learning and imaginative play.

Recommended Age: 6 – 15 years
Safety Hazards: Choking hazard
Sensory Focus: Touch, sight
Includes: 6 dino figurines, 6 sand molds, sand tray, 2 lbs play sand, dino poop fossil
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 10.5 x 3 x 12.5

#12

Spot-It!

Playable in 15 minutes, this is a quick family fun or party game that’s great for building visual acuity. Spot-It! includes five different games in one small tin, and it’s good for 2-8 players. It’s a great cooperative activity that travels well and is perfect for birthday parties, slumber parties or rainy day fun that offers language and motor development.

Recommended Age: 7 – 11 years
Safety Hazards: None
Sensory Focus: Sight
Includes: Game
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 5.3 x 5.3 x 3 inches

#13

Fat Brain Toys Tobbles

Colorful and creative, the Fat Brain Toys Tobbles is great for improving spatial reasoning and small motor control. It encourages free thinking and creative play while improving coordination and building a rudimentary understanding of physics. The bright, varied colors also make it a great tool for teaching color identification, and it encourages critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Recommended Age: 3 – 4 years
Safety Hazards: Choking hazard
Sensory Focus: Touch, sight
Includes: 6 stacking tobbles, base
Required for Operation: n/a
Size: 7.5 x 4.5 x 11.5 inches

FAQs: All you need to know

Q What is a sensory toy?

A A sensory toy is designed to engage and stimulate a child’s senses, typically sight, touch and hearing. This has been proven to be beneficial to child development.

Q How are sensory toys beneficial to child development?

A Sensory toys are beneficial in several ways – they assist in the improvement of language, cognitive and motor development as well as problem solving skills and social interactions. They can also provide calm stimulation when children are anxious or frustrated, and they build nerve connections that prepare and encourage a child’s brain to complete more complicated tasks.

Q What is “proprioception”?

A A long word for a simple concept, proprioception is the proprioception or awareness of the position and movement of the body, sometimes described as the sixth sense. To improve it is to improve balance and coordination, sometimes referred to as gross motor skills.

DIY, Craft and Décor: Ideas for sensory toys

fun cloud sand

Want an outdoor easy cleanup DIY to keep little hands busy? Renae at North Phoenix Moms Blog shows us how to make fun cloud sand with just flour and baby oil.

Velcro exploration board

Need a sights and sounds exploration board you can make at home? Jen at Mama Papa Bubba teaches us how to make a Velcro exploration board that thrills toddlers.

rain stick DIY

Love rain sticks and want to make some for your kiddos? Anna at the Imagination Tree shows off her awesome rain stick DIY that you can put your own creative spin on.

sensory bottles

You’ve probably seen ultra popular sensory bottles on Pinterest, and now you can make some easily thanks to a great DIY from Heidi at Happiness is Homemade.

rainbow sensory play

Fun sensory pldoesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, as this totally non toxic and simple rainbow sensory play DIY from Katie at Happily Ever After Momproves.

Quick Decision

PlaSmart PlasmaCar   – Best Overall
It’s a creative, battery free, noiseless first set of wheels to build confidence and balance

Gonge Riverstones – Upgrade Choice
They’re unique, adjustable to your child’s skill level and can provide a fairly intense workout

Tuddler Educational Drawstring – Best Budget Buy
It’s inexpensive and great for teaching color sorting and counting safely

Baby sleep projector

baby sleep projectors

For your little ones restful slumber, we give you the best selections of baby sleep projectors.
Hannah H.

Hannah H.

Hannah is both a parent and a freelance journalist and author. You go, girl! She is an impeccable wordsmith and her warm and witty outlook on life makes her pieces a joy to read.

Scroll to Top